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With at least one third of Nigeria’s budget, set aside every year, conservatively put at three trillion naira, about 200m Nigerians would be sure to have access to health insurance.

The Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Professor Mohammed Sambo made this assertion during a courtesy call on the Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, while responding to a question on the sufficiency of funding for the Scheme.

He further stated that with sufficient funds in the health insurance pool, the Scheme will expand its benefit package to include medical conditions such as cancer currently excluded, adding that the establishment of a Catastrophic Fund was being planned to specifically address terminal ailments.

Giving details of efforts at expanding coverage to all segments of the society, Sambo disclosed that all processes to enroll members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) into the Scheme have been finalized and coverage will be commenced with the release of funds by the government for that purpose, adding that plans to extend health insurance cover to the elderly and retirees have reached advanced stage.

While acknowledging the challenges of drug dispensing within the health insurance system, he expressed the optimism that NHIS’ collaboration with drug manufacturers, in a plan that will effect direct supplies to hospitals, will ensure affordability and availability.

Emphasizing the importance of an efficient system where stakeholders observed laid down rules, the healthcare financing expert disclosed that the debt reconciliation exercise directed by the Scheme between HMOs and HCPs yielded the paying back of N2billion to hospitals, adding that complaints from facilities about payments have dropped significantly.

Highlighting the trajectory of NHIS, Sambo stated that the reforms initiated under his watch had brought stability to the Scheme and was rapidly steering it towards the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Appreciative of the growing acceptability of the Scheme by the public, the NHIS scribe harped on the nexus between the Scheme’s attainment of its goals and the imperatives of information dissemination by the media as represented by NAN, stressing that the news agency’s support was key to the Scheme’s success of deepening awareness of its programmes among members of the public.

According to him, the role of NAN within the country’s media space is preeminent, stressing that the Scheme’s relationship with the medium held the prospects of immense mutual benefits.

Speaking during the visit, the managing director of NAN, Mr. Buki Ponle stated that the agency practices development journalism, adding that NAN had changed the narrative in reporting Africa through development issues.

According to him, “we try as much as possible to report adequately and proffer solutions to issues… we identify and emphasize with humanity”

He commended the NHIS boss for the ongoing reforms towards addressing the challenges of the Scheme, promising that the agency was ready to partner with the Scheme in making progress towards achieving its objectives.

The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) have a long standing relationship dating back to 2001.

Emmanuel Ononokpono

Head, Media and Public Relations

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